* 130,000 evacuated in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland
* Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dump torrents of rain
* 8 p.m. curfew imposed
(Adds two dead, crest pushed back to 8 a.m., sewage plants
washed out, towns flooded by 8 feet of water)
By Paul Eckert
WILKES-BARRE, Pa, Sept 8 Relentless rain caused
catastrophic flooding in the eastern United States on Thursday,
killing at least five people and forcing the evacuation of more
than 130,000 in three states.
Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, days after slamming the
Gulf Coast, swamped homes and businesses from Maryland to New
England and dropped up to a foot of rain outside Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania, which declared a state of emergency.
Flood warnings were in effect in northern Virginia,
Delaware, Maryland and upstate New York, and flood watches were
underway in other areas from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C.,
according to the National Weather Service.
In Pennsylvania, the rising waters of the Susquehanna River
forced the evacuation of 65,000 people from Wilkes-Barre and
another 35,000 from surrounding counties, said Stephen Urban,
commissioner of Luzerne County.
Eight feet of water covered normally picturesque river
towns like Tunkhannock and Shickshinny, and residents who
disregarded the evacuation rode out the flood in their bedrooms
and attics. Others flocked to refuge centers.
The typically meandering river was turned into a roiling
toxic mess after washing out 10 sewage processing plants,
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said.
"We're worried about people even getting near the water,"
Corbett told a news conference.
The river was expected to crest at 40 feet 8 inches at 8
a.m. on Friday, a level just below the 41 feet that levees in
Wilkes-Barre were built to withstand, Urban said. Authorities
imposed a curfew in cities along the surging river.
"After 8 o'clock, we'll start arresting anyone who stays in
this area," a patrolman shouted over a bullhorn as patrol cars
At curfew, the dark brown river was lapping 2 feet below
the top of an earthen levee protecting the west bank of the
river. Water seeped into the streets under a temporary
floodgate set up to protect Market Street, one of
Wilkes-Barre's main thoroughfares.
Streets were silent at dusk, with businesses like fast food
restaurants and 24-hour pharmacies shut. Low-lying towns to the
north of the city were already starting to flood.
"Almost every town along the Susquehanna River has
experienced flooding," Governor Corbett said.
At least five people were killed in Pennsylvania and
Virginia. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, a homeowner trying to bail
water out of his flooded basement died with a wall collapsed.
In Lancaster County, a 62-year-old woman in her car was caught
in flood waters, and a man was swept away as he tried to walk
through rushing water 12 to 18 inches deep, authorities said.
In Virginia's Fairfax County, flash floods swept away two
people, a 12-year-old boy in his family's backyard and a man in
his sixties who was outside his car, said Lucy Caldwell,
spokeswoman for Fairfax County Police.
"The water rose so quickly and so abruptly. It was
terrifying," Caldwell said.
Rivers and creeks still swollen by Hurricane Irene two
weeks ago threatened cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania,
New York and New Jersey, and were poised to smash records.
"It's like Irene without the wind," meteorologist Elliot
Abrams on Accuweather.com said of torrential rains predicted to
continue through Thursday night.
In upstate New York, mandatory evacuations were declared
for about 20,000 residents in Binghamton, New York Governor
Andrew Cuomo said. More evacuations were reported in other
towns of Broome County, near the Pennsylvania border, as well
as in Schenectady and Schoharie counties.
Public health nurses gave tetanus shots to more than 1,200
residents and rescue workers in an effort to prevent disease
from contaminated flood waters in Schoharie County.
Maryland also ordered several towns to evacuate, including
Havre de Grace, population 11,000, and Port Deposit.
In Philadelphia-area flooding, mud and rock slides closed
the busiest commuter highways, such as the Schuylkill
Expressway and U.S. Route 1, as well as railways including four
heavily traveled commuter lines.
Among New Jersey roads closed were busy Route 73 and parts
of Route 29 in Trenton along the banks of the Delaware River.
In New York, Amtrak shut rail service west of Albany and
officials expected many closures on the New York Thruway.
(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Daniel
Lovering in Pittsburgh, Holly McKenna in Albany and John Rondy
in Milwaukee; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Greg McCune and